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You Are Only As Big As Your Vocabulary

 

vo·cabu·lary (vō kabyə ler′ē)  Noun pl. Vocabularies -·lar′·ies

  1. a list of words and, often, phrases, abbreviations, inflectional forms, etc., usually arranged in alphabetical order and defined or otherwise identified, as in a dictionary or glossary
  2. all the words of a language
    1. all the words used by a particular person, socioeconomic group, profession, etc.

in full active vocabulary

  1. all the words recognized and understood, although not necessarily used, by a particular person

in full passive vocabulary

  1. an interrelated group of nonverbal symbols, signs, gestures, etc. used for communication or expression in a particular art, skill, etc.

My daughter was diagnosed with a speech delay when she was seven. Her speech delay had nothing to do with being able to talk; it had to do with understanding and communicating (receptive/expressive). There are two main forms of vocabulary, receptive and expressive (hearing and speaking). Words that are generally understood when heard or read or seen constitute a person’s receptive or passive vocabulary, also known as listening vocabulary. Expressive vocabulary is generally words whose meanings are understood well enough that a person feels comfortable using them in everyday situations. In most cases, a person’s receptive vocabulary is the larger of the two, which is exactly the case for my daughter. The types of vocabulary also include reading vocabulary, writing vocabulary, and focal vocabulary. My daughter’s weakness was in expressive language. She sometimes had problems retrieving the right words to express what she wanted or needed to say.

“Of the many compelling reasons for providing students with instruction to build vocabulary, none is more important than the contribution of vocabulary knowledge to reading comprehension. Indeed, one of the most enduring findings in reading research is the extent to which students’ vocabulary knowledge relates to their reading comprehension (e.g., Anderson & Freebody, 1981; Baumann, Kame‘enui, & Ash, 2003; Becker, 1977; Davis, 1942; Whipple, 1925). Most recently, the National Reading Panel (2000) concluded that comprehension development cannot be understood without a critical examination of the role played by vocabulary knowledge. Given that students’ success in school and beyond depends in great measure upon their ability to read with comprehension, there is an urgency to providing instruction that equips students with the skills and strategies necessary for lifelong vocabulary development.” 2

Can we agree that having a solid vocabulary is paramount to reading success? What is gained from building a stronger vocabulary? For starters, an extensive vocabulary aids expression and communication. Vocabulary size is directly linked to reading comprehension, so if you want better reading comprehension, increase your vocabulary. Another benefit is that linguistic vocabulary is synonymous with thinking vocabulary. Be aware that others just might judge the student or adult learner based on his or her vocabulary. To prevent that, make sure precautions are in place to ensure a good working vocabulary.

What are a few good ways to encourage or motivate students to improve their vocabulary? Playing games is usually at the top of the list. These can be game board games the family plays together or online vocabulary games. Spelling, phonics, and vocabulary will all improve while having fun at the same time.

 

1 Webster’s New World College Dictionary Wiley Publishing, Inc., Cleveland,Ohio.

2  Fran Lehr, M.A., Lehr & Associates, Champaign, Illinois; Jean Osborn, M.Ed., University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Dr. Elfrieda H. Hiebert, Visiting Research Professor, University of California – Berkeley

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Needle in the Haystack

Do you have a child who needs a little extra help in school? If you answered yes, I bet you have been frustrated at times looking for the elusive “needle in a haystack.” Finding that just right program or curriculum takes time and patience. Sometimes you think you have the perfect “program” only to discover it just doesn’t mesh well with your child or your child’s needs. Perhaps you like the curriculum, but you can’t adjust the grade level within each subject. Does your child excel in one area, but need a little more help in another area? Adjusting levels within each subject is very helpful. Maybe you like the curriculum, but you wish you could see progress reports for each and every subject so you know what your child is and is not mastering. Special education needs are important, and finding that “just right” program is possible. It may take some time, but it is very possible.  One “perfect” program or curriculum usually doesn’t exist. It is most often a mixture of a few great programs.  assistive technology is readily available today.

My daughter uses Time4Learning and Teaching Textbooks as her two main core curriculum’s. They each offer just what she needs in order to learn and be successful. We also participate in a very small local co-op, that way she can also take speciality classes with other friends. We supplement as necessary and based upon her interests.

As a side note, I wanted to talk just a little about vocabulary and its impact on education. Do you think it is important to improve your vocabulary?  My daughter has a rather large vocabulary and has since she was very little. I think one of the main reasons is that her father and I were older when she was born, plus, we never talked baby talk. We chose to teach her the real names of things and expose her to as much as we could. If we were working in the garden, we talked to her about compost,  trellising vines, or maybe the ways sulphur helps in the garden. We included vocabulary lessons in her early years of homeschooling.  Back in the day, we weren’t aware of online classes, online curriculum, or online educational games. Today, there are so many free educational resources available online,  there is no excuse not include vocabulary lessons in your daily homeschool lessons.


A good vocabulary is linked to better grades and higher pay in the work force. According to Larry I. Bell, there are 12 powerful words all kids should know in order to master tests. If your child doesn’t fully understand these 12 words, they may miss a test question even if they really know the answer. Take time to watch a few of the videos or power points, make flash cards, etc… with your child. It pays off in the long run.

 

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